The relationship between the secondary mathematics curriculum, college persistence, and success at an urban community college

Avis Richards Proctor, Florida International University


According to Venezia, Kirst, and Antonio (2003) and Barth’s 2002 Thinking K16 Ticket to Nowhere report, the disconnect between K-12 and postsecondary education was a contributing factor to high attrition rates. Since mathematics emerged as a primary concern for college readiness, Barth (2002) called for improving student transitions from K-12 to postsecondary institutions through the use of state or local data. The purpose of the present study was to analyze mathematics course-taking patterns of secondary students in a local context and to evaluate high school characteristics in order to explore their relationships with Associate degree attainment or continuous enrollment at an urban community college. Also, this study extended a national study conducted by Clifford Adelman (The Toolbox Revisited, 2006) as it specifically focused on community college students that were not included his study. Furthermore, this study used the theoretical framework that human capital, social capital, and cultural capital influence habitus—an individual’s or a group’s learned inclination to behave within the parameters of the imposed prevailing culture and norms. Specifically, the school embedded culture as it relates to tracking worked as a reproduction tool of ultimate benefit for the privileged group (Oakes, 1994). Using multilevel analysis, this ex post facto study examined non-causal relationships between math course-taking patterns and college persistence of public high school graduates who enrolled at the local community college for up to 6 years. One school-level variable (percent of racial/ethnic minorities) and 7 student-level variables (community college math proportion, remedial math attempts, race, gender, first-year credits earned, socioeconomic status, and summer credits earned) emerged as predictors for college persistence. Study results indicated that students who enter higher education at the community college may have had lower opportunities to learn and therefore needed higher levels of remediation, which was shown to detract students from degree completion. Community college leaders are called to partner with local high schools with high percentages of racial/ethnic minorities to design academic programs aimed at improving the academic preparation of high school students in mathematics and promote student engagement during the first year and summers of college.

Subject Area

Community college education|Mathematics education|Higher Education Administration|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Proctor, Avis Richards, "The relationship between the secondary mathematics curriculum, college persistence, and success at an urban community college" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3502119.